Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hinduism: The Universal Religion - Book review

Hinduism: The Universal Religion
By Manju Gupta

A Review of "Radical Universalism, Does Hinduism Teach that All
Religions are the Same?" Dr. Frank Morales, Voice of India Press, pp
56, Rs 100.00, U.S. $10.00

THIS is a booklet in which the author, a practicing Hindu considered
America's leading authority on Hinduism, reiterates his important
message that Sanatana Dharma must be understood and practiced only in
its original form if it is to survive and thrive as the world's most
important and relevant spiritual tradition.

All human beings have a common religious urge—a seeking to contact the
Divine or a higher spiritual reality—which has had different
expressions according to the time, place, culture and the individual
himself or herself. Due to different beliefs and practices in existing
religions, something that is regarded as holy in one religion may be
considered unholy in another. As a result, religion has often
prevented the spread of unity among human beings; it has instead, led
to disagreement, hatred, war and even genocide in the world.

In an effort to be tolerant and more inclusive than others, Hinduism
has made "the blanket that all religions are true, valid and equal and
lead to the same goal—what could be called a `radical universalism',"
says the author. It is this radical universalism that promotes
acceptance of all religions as same in order to lead us to unity
behind our religious strivings—it is immaterial what religion one
follows or whether one goes to a church, mosque or a temple. One needs
to have full faith in the religion that one has adopted to reach the
highest truth.

Different religions of the world contain various doctrines and
teachings that cannot all be equally valid. Here the author states
that the law of karma and rebirth, for example, is either true or
false. "If it is true, then religions which do not teach it are
flawed. If it is not true, then the religions that teach are
incorrect. Both cannot be true at the same time." He says that
similarly there can be no final guru, prophet or saviour for all
humanity. Religion should, in its real import, be a quest for eternal
truth and "seeking to realise it within our own consciousness." This
means that we question everything and accept only that which is proved
by our experiences.

Hindu Dharma "teaches us pluralism relative to the spiritual life,
which can both tolerate many points of view but also discriminate
between them and find out what is best for each individual." Thus an
enlightened pluralism must rest upon a higher sense of discrimination.

In this book Dr Morales bases his views on a rationality reflecting
the great principles of Vedanta, which insist upon a clear
understanding of the issue and not just the imposition of one's belief
as the answer. He shows how the Hindu tradition does not teach us
blind equation of all religions, but instead emphasises on enlightened
pluralism. This not only allows the existence of many paths but
insists that only a razor-sharp path can take us to our highest goal.

It is heartening to read a Western scholar of Hinduism say that a
traditional Hindu has always been the most tolerant of all religious
persons and that Hindu India has been the sole nation on earth where
the Jewish community was never persecuted and who have lived in India
for over 200 years. Similarly Zoroastrian refugees, escaping the
destruction of Persian civilisation at the hands of Islamic
conquerors, were greeted with welcome refuge in India over 1,000 years
ago. The Zoroastrian community, now known as Parsis, has thrived in
India in all these many centuries, living together as they do with
their Hindu neighbours in peace and mutual respect. He says that in
keeping with the Vedic adage that the guest in one's home is to be
treated with as much hospitality as a visiting divinity, Hindus have
always lived peacefully with indigenous Indian religions like
Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism and even the foreign religions like
Christianity and Islam.

(Voice of India, 2/18 Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110 002.)

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